The 332,000 hectares of the Cinaruco floodable grasslands in Colombia have been declared a new protected area
- The fact that Cinaruco has been declared a protected area is the result of local communities working hand-in-hand with the Alliance for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Territory and Culture.
- The Cinaruco declaration means the incorporation of a new Arauca - Apure biogeographical district into the Protected Areas System that will represent 1.62% of that system and will protect tropical floodable grasslands, tropical gallery forests, and bodies of water that are unique in the country.
- The floodable grasslands of Arauca are strategic ecosystems that regulate rivers and lakes, and also the climate in the Orinoquia region.
As of August 1, 2018, Colombia has a new protected area, in the National Integrated Management District (DNMI) category, namely Cinaruco (332,000 hectares). The area is in the east of Arauca province and comes under the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Arauca and Cravo Norte. The landscape is one of floodable grasslands, gallery forests, and riparian forests (which protect riverbanks).
The map shows the location of Cinaruco, in the municipalities of Arauca and Cravo Norte
The zone that is protected as an Integrated Management District covers an area of 332,000 hectares, which is larger than countries like Luxembourg. Cinaruco is also a biodiversity refuge in the Orinoco region and is home to more than 68 species of mammal, 178 of bird, 176 of fish, 670 of plant, and 74 of reptile. The Cinaruco declaration increases the share of the Orinoquia biogeographical region in the Protected Areas System from 4.06 per cent to 5.96 per cent and, more importantly, incorporates into that system a new Arauca - Apure biogeographical district that has hitherto been omitted and will come to represent 1.62 per cent of that system, providing protection for floodable grasslands, tropical gallery forests, and bodies of water that are unique in the country.
The peasant communities living on the plains in the area have succeeded in using their natural resources in a sustainable manner to carry out production activities that provide their daily sustenance, such as the traditional extensive cattle-raising and pig breeding. They have also worked as conservation agents for the five ecosystems that have been identified in the Orinoquia region, namely tropical floodable grasslands, wetlands, tropical gallery forests, bodies of water, and beaches and dunes.
Why conserve Cinaruco?
If the floodable grasslands of Arauca are protected, the natural dynamics of the floodable ecosystems and bodies of water such as torrents, lakes and rivers in the binational (Colombia/Venezuela) Cinaruco and Capanaparo basins can be maintained. These dynamics guarantee sources of subsistence for the peasant and indigenous communities living in these basins. Their culture is also preserved, because the relationship between community and nature is one of the cornerstones of social life in this region.
Most of the inhabitants are peasants from Casanare and Arauca who acquired their property by settling on wasteland. It is also the ancestral territory of the Wamonae, Yaruro, Yamalero, Maiben-Masiware and Sáliva indigenous peoples in the Caño Mochuelo reserve.
© Rodrigo Durán Bahamón
Being a protected area reduces pressures on this region, such as the illegal extraction of biodiversity for commercialization purposes, burning, selective felling, unregulated fishing and hunting, and loss of the plains and indigenous identity.
What is an Integrated Management District?
It is a geographical area where landscapes and ecosystems retain their function and composition even though their structure has been altered, and whose associated natural and cultural values are made available to the inhabitants for their sustainable use, preservation, restoration, knowledge and enjoyment (Decree 1076 of 2015). The DNMI enables sustainable use to become a strategy for conserving a region in conjunction with local communities.
© Rodrigo Durán Bahamón
Colombia, land of conservation
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, and the first by square kilometer. Forming and expanding protected areas helps to conserve this natural heritage. These regions also ensure that all Colombians can be provided with vital ecosystem services. Today the country has more than thirty million hectares of protected land; in other words, over 14 per cent of the country is covered by some form of protection. This makes Colombia a leading Latin American country in the preservation of natural resources.
What is the Alliance for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Territory and Culture?
The Alliance for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Territory and Culture was formed in 2016 to assist the government in achieving its goals with respect to the formation and expansion of protected areas. Its members are Colombia’s National Parks System, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Argos Foundation, and the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation. The National Hydrocarbons Agency was also involved in the declaration process. If Cinaruco is to be conserved, further joint work will be required by the Agriculture and Rural Development and the Environment and Sustainable Development sectors, in order to bring the preservation of natural areas into line with the development of production activities. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Rural Farming Planning Unit, the Rural Development Agency, the National Fishing and Aquiculture Authority and the National Land Agency are all committed to these efforts. The declaration was approved by the Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, which recognized its outstanding values, and is supported by the GEF/SINAP project (Consolidation of the National Protected Areas System, SINAP, at national and regional level) and the USAID Natural Riches Program.
© Rodrigo Durán Bahamón